Researchers are stressing the need for new solutions to combat homelessness, which African Americans are disproportionally affected by compared to other groups. Black Americans are about three times more likely to live on the streets than white Americans, according to a national study which is the first in decades to look at lifetime homeless rates.
About 17 percent of Black baby boomers have been “homeless at some point in their lives,” suggested the study, which was released last month. The issue is severe and can’t be ignored, researchers said.
“The magnitude of the racial and ethnic disparities is striking,” Vincent Fusaro, a Boston College professor and co-author of the study, said in an email to The Washington Post.
Fusaro, who co-authored the study with Helen Levy and H. Luke Shaefer, two researchers at the University of Michigan, believes that solutions are urgent.
“A one-night snapshot tells us only how many people are experiencing homelessness at one time, not how many have ever experienced homelessness,” Fusaro said, emphasizing that formerly homeless people can suffer adverse physical and mental health consequences even after finding housing. “If homelessness has longer-term consequences, a lifetime estimate is an important complement to our homelessness numbers.”
The study focused on people born between 1946 and 1964, aged 47 to 68, in order to get a fuller picture of the national homelessness rate. Researchers did omit people who were homeless but died before reaching ages 47 to 68. Their findings suggested that the consequences of homelessness are particularly harsh for African Americans and are seemingly connected to higher poverty rates.
Roughly one in four black Americans are in poverty, compared to roughly one in 10 white Americans, according to U.S. Census data.
The alarming rates have fueled homeless advocates and activists to press the federal government for help and better estimates of the national homeless population. The numbers are too high, and the problem must be eradicated, activists have said.
“This study’s findings create new urgency to identify federal, state, and local policy responses to alleviate and prevent such racial disparities,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said.